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Setting Valuable Intake Questions for Clients – A Guide

Amie Parnaby
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A guide to Intake Questions

This post is also available in: French Spanish Portuguese (Brazil) German

Have you ever had a client book an appointment with you and discovered that you couldn’t help them when they showed up? How do you know that you can help your clients if you don’t ask for a bit of information upfront? Whenever you provide any professional service, it’s worth your while to determine their needs and whether it’s within your ability or scope to deliver what they demand. However, a carefully constructed intake form can make all the difference. In this post, we will examine how to use your intake questions to gather valuable data and ensure you book the “right” clients.

Intake Questions -Valuable Insight or Marketing Mania?

The one thing that will put clients off completing your intake form will be if you include a lot of irrelevant intake questions. Asking a lot of personal questions that will have little to no impact on your service provision will be a big red flag in your client relationship. 

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you are being “mined” for marketable data. 

However, by keeping your intake questions relevant and concise and ensuring you have the correct response fields, you can gather a lot of client trust and valuable data. 

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have client trust AND collect marketable data.

Collecting data for your business is essential to your continued survival in a world where an up and coming competitor can oust even the first in line. Analysing the data from a year of client intake questions allows you to spot patterns and commonalities between disparate clients. Conversely, you can also spot distinct differences between seemingly similar clients.

Who Needs to Use Intake Questions?

Anyone who offers a service with any preconditions, variable scope, or contra-indications needs to use intake questions.

To attract and book the right clients, you need to know what they expect of you. In some situations, it will mean you need to add extras to the service. 

For an optimal outcome, defining the scope and requirements of your service before the appointment allows you to prepare efficiently. Setting out parameters for service scope, confirming you have the resources available, and even ensuring the correct providers get the right clients.

Some examples

  • Digital agencies, including web design, marketing, SEO, copywriting, graphic design, etc. Setting the parameter of your client’s needs, you can prepare, creating mock-ups, marketing strategies, and writing samples.
  • Beauty, Aesthetics & Wellness, numerous treatments and services have contraindications such as ingredient allergies and sensitivities. Perhaps there are even ethical objections (animal cruelty and testing, veganism). Other things might include current hair colour, required result and starting point, colours, and things like tattoo design (if you have a design already). 
  • Sports & Fitness business, especially if there are any physical or medical limitations that could impact your training. Also, what do clients want to achieve? If you know their goals and constraints, you can prepare a plan for them before your first appointment.
  • Medical & Medicine Adjacent businesses all require some upfront information, particularly if it’s the first time you will see a patient. You might need to request a truncated medical history (such as surgeries, major illnesses, and pre-existing conditions). Other things might include a list of allergies, insurance details or payment channels. and identifying data.
  • Legal firms, including solicitors, local government and council offices, family lawyers, litigators, etc. By discovering the specific need of the prospective client, you can prepare and have all the necessary information. If it’s merely a fact-finding mission, you can point them in the right direction and discuss options for their needs.
  • Accounting firms, including bookkeepers, tax specialists and financial planners, etc. 
  • Real estate, including rental agencies, property auctioneers, property management companies, etc. 
  • Home Services, including garden, office or workplace services and maintenance.  
  • Education, including teaching, training, coaching, and tutoring individuals and groups.

A significant reason for scheduling hiccups and appointments running late is that the appointment wasn’t long enough. Either for the scope or ability to achieve the desired result. However, by gathering crucial information beforehand and working out the required time, your schedule has more “billable” hours.

What Intake Questions Should you Include in your Intake Forms?

What do you need to know about your existing and potential clients to make your business more efficient? Which information is crucial to providing your customers with a fantastic experience? The specifics will depend on your business. But you can get some idea of the questions you should ask.

Get Contact Information & Other Basics

While attempting to secure new prospects or your business is more of a “single-serve” enterprise, you need the names and contact details of the people involved. You might also need a company name and a VAT number, depending on whether you offer services to businesses or private individuals. 

You also need contact details. Phone and email are the usual ones, but you can ask for other preferences such as Slack, Telegram, Skype, Zoom, or even Google Hangouts. 

Set the Baseline – What do they expect?

What do your clients expect from the appointment they want to book? These queries apply to both new and returning clients because they may come back for something different. Your business determines the particulars of the questions. However, the following intake questions could be helpful:

  • Scope breadth
  • Desired result
  • Budget
  • Starting point

Prepare – Ensure you have everything you need

It might seem a little premature, but you might want to consider potential barriers to a successful outcome. “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” It’s a handy little adage for mitigating any potential barriers to success.

  • Necessary documentation (passport, proof of address, VAT number, incorporation documents) for businesses and individuals
  • Previous experience (education, training etc.)
  • Physical limitations (personal training)
  • Location (physical or virtual meeting)
  • Time constraints (when do they want to move house, when do they need project completion)

How should Your Intake Form Look?

It’s essential to frame your questions and requirements appropriately without seeming pushy or demanding. 

  • Your form is easy, short, to the point, and straightforward to fill in
  • Your form is user-friendly.
  • Don’t ask for information that you don’t need.
  • Continuously review and tweak.

You need to keep it simple, not only in the number of intake questions but in the response fields. If you need an address, make sure you allow for multiple lines of text. If you only require yes or no answers, use a drop-down menu or a toggle switch. You might need documentation uploaded, such as a passport photo or driving licence. 

Another critical point to remember is defining your mandatory fields. Don’t make answers obligatory if it’s something useful, but your client may not know. Otherwise, you guarantee your prospect just went to another provider.

What Have you Learned? – Use it wisely

You have great power to collect some spectacularly valuable data, but to paraphrase Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

When you collect data from your clients and prospects, you are responsible for keeping that information safe. I don’t just mean for medical professionals and financial data. Nobody wants to think the data they provide to a company for the best possible service will be shared or compromised by poor security practices.

Using data wisely means targeting specific sections of your client base. The point of collecting information is to improve your targeting through data analysis. If you still send the same messages and marketing materials to people regardless of stated preferences, you’re not working efficiently. When you send impersonal and poorly targeted marketing and reminders to clients, you are more likely to have these people unsubscribing from your mailing list. 

How do you reach them then?

You can use the information you’ve collected to create new services, expand your provisions, and improve the quality and specificity of your services.

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